Fantasy Baseball Columnists Have B.A.s in BS

AJ Mass' preferred Fantasy Baseball

I’ve read a fair amount of fantasy based columns, some semi-regular, some not, and to a large degree it sometimes appears as if there is an incredible lack of effort put into it. Often you get the feeling that the writer is hired not so much for his knowledge of the players and their abilities than for their ability to weave a semi-interesting read couched more in narrative than information. So beware the advice-men, you may discover they know much less than you.

I’m in a 14 team ESPN League, so I generally take a minute to at least scan the free articles to see if I can get a leg up. There is a Daily Notes column written by a couple or few guys and for this weekend we received this offering from AJ Mass: Daily Notes For May 1-2; Pelfrey, Hughes look to stay hot

Note: As some of these games have already been played I will place post-game info italicized in [brackets].

The first steaming fissure in the case is the replacement Rockies. The Rox have had to call up two minor league pitchers to fill in for injured starters and for their starts against the Giants they both received ratings of 10. Chris Carpenter receives a 10 for his game with the Reds and Roy Halladay a 9 vs the Mets and those are the two best pitchers. I’m guessing that Mass forgot to give a rating, but for a default value to be 10…really? Then again, if it was purposeful that displays faulty logic as these are two unheralded minor leaguers and I wouldn’t even have given Tim Lincecum a 10 for when he first came into the Majors.

Mass spends a lot of time on his player notes singling out stats vs opposing teams or pitchers. Unless you end up talking about divisional foes or lengthy careers most players haven’t accumulated enough stats to make any meaningful deductions. It’s like judging Christian Bale’s acting career based on “Terminator: Salvation” or Steve Martin’s preferred genre based on “The Spanish Prisoner.”

Chris Volstad is ‘dangerous’ because he has a 6.48 ERA against the Washington Nationals in 4 starts. The Nats are one of those teams where you can pretty much start anyone with relative assurance of good numbers in comparison to their career. Sure, Volstad has a young career, so those past numbers are more relevant, but you’re likely desperate and he is likely an FA and this remains a favorable situation as there are many far worse ones. And if you’re scared of his 2010 numbers the main bloatation arose from his initial start against the Rockies and since then he has been getting progressively better.
[Volstad pitched a complete game, 8K, 1R]

Javier Vasquez is singled out for his success against against the Chicago White Sox, stated as 3-0 lifetime. That’s based on 3 games from ’04 and ’05. Well, besides Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski (’05 only) the WhiSox are completely different. Vasquez has been awful for the Yankees against the Rays, Angels, and A’s, so why should you suddenly believe him to turn it around. Vasquez is one of those candidates, who is most likely now an FA, that should be left alone until he shows signs of his former self.
[Vasquez crapped the bed again, lucky to only allow 5R through 3 IP, allowing almost 4 baserunners an inning and 3 HR]

For other mentions of the May 1st games (quotations are summations):
“Mike Pelfrey is not as reliable as Doc Halladay”…no kidding, thanks. [Doc incredible, Pelf not so much]

“David Price and TB are good.” These are gimmes so far. [Respectable, but far from good]

“King Felix is 8-9, 3.72 vs Texas, and is better play than Dan Haren, who has struggled vs Cubs.” You play Felix regardless, even if Texas is a strong hitting team and Dan Haren has been off and on so far, but at some point he should get back on track. [Milton Bradley stood around as a fly ball dropped 15 feet from him allowing 2 ER to score, Felix was good otherwise, but Dan Haren wasn’t]

“Yovani Gallardo has had similar difficulties with his Saturday opponent, the San Diego Padres, as evidenced by his 5.40 ERA facing them over the years.” That’s an exact quote and I emboldened the last part because he has had one career start against them from during his rookie campaign of 2007. You don’t use the phrase ‘over the years’ for one instance…also, the Padres are another team where you can expect most pitchers to do better than their averages. [11 Ks to go with 7 IP of one run ball debunks ‘those years’ of trouble]

“John Danks is good so far, but has been bad against the Yankees.” Most pitchers aren’t all that good against the Yanks as their batting order is hired to be dangerous. [Danks was decent, but threw too much allowing 2 R over 5 IP]

“Matt Cain has poor run support and hasn’t won a game yet.” A good pitcher playing for a poor scoring teams will still put up good numbers, maybe you could mention how the Rockies have injury trouble and besides filling in their rotation they have had to plug holes in their lineup. Lincecum and Greinke have similar issues with run support. [8 IP, 8 K, 0 runs, 0.50 WHIP]

“Tim Hudson is undefeated with 1.16 ERA vs Houston.” Tim Hudson is a good pitcher and the Astros are a bad to average team (poor division bloats win totals). 4 total starts, 2 wins. Can we mention how the Astros are abnormally bad this year? [1 K to go with 1 R over 6.2 IP]

“Wandy has back issues and they could flare up again.” That is actually helpful, backs are important for pitching, life in general. [Poor fielding did him in 5 R, 2 ER over 5 IP, he should be fine by next start]

“Gio Gonzalez and Carlos Silva = middle-of-the-road options.” Gonzalez waffles between great and bad, but you can risk that vs Toronto. Silva is a career bad pitcher who puts a lot of balls in play and he has faced the Reds, Astros, Mets, and Nats in his 4 starts this year…so judge by that. [Gio was the great side of the waffle with 8 K, 2 R over 6.2 and Silva regressed to old habits]

“Craig Stammen has been bad vs the Marlins.” …and just about every other team. I’m not quite sure why Mass didn’t place him in the ‘Thanks, but no thanks’ category. [Stammen lasted 4 innings and was his usual bad self]

“Homer Bailey is 1-3, 7.06 ERA vs Cardinals.” He is another wait for signs of success candidate as he has been awful this year and the Cards are not a return to winning form opponent. [Homer allowed too many runners, but kept damage down to 2 ER, 3 R with a promising 6 K]

“Carlos Monasterios goes RP to SP and Brad Bergesen returns from AAA.” One faces a bad team, while the other faces a good team. Craig Stammen is rated above them somehow. [Monasterios wasn’t anything special, but allowed 1 R over 4 IP, while Bergesen allowed 2 doubles and 2 HR]

Other pitchers are neglected their share of text because the writer was too lazy to blindly pull split stats from Baseball-Reference. Chances are that if you listened to everything he said you left your good pitchers in and got screwed on any chances you took.

Look, I understand that doing a daily note piece on all the games can get tedious, but these are completely useless statistics (small sample size) and don’t go far enough into tendencies. Something that could really help are individual splits vs lefties or righties, proclivity to take advantage of ground ball or fly ball pitchers, or even specific pitches that an upcoming pitcher may throw that a hitter likes. One game against a team that no longer looks the same is not something you can make decisions with.

Hitter notes for May 1st:
“Dustin Pedroia is 4-6 against Bergesen.” Outstanding, that’s like 2 games. [Pedroia went 0-5]

“Andy LaRoche is facing inexperienced starter.” To be honest I would have bit on this matchup, but…[0-4, in hindsight LaRoche has had a short and poor career]

“Jose Lopez has hit in 4 of 5 and has .308 BA vs Harrison.” He is also a poor career guy and that .308 is 4 hits in 13 AB. [2-5 with 2 RBI, bumping his 2010 BA to .235]

“Adam Lind is .385 in past few days and went 2-3 previously against Gio.” Awesome, Gio clearly learned nothing from that, so Lind obviously has his number. At this point you’re probably trotting Lind out there regardless, so I don’t know why this is mentioned other than Mass remembered that game. [0-4 with a K]

“Mark DeRosa is slumping and has a .212 BA vs the Rockies staff.” The staff that he won’t be seeing this weekend? [1-4 and a K]

“Rod Barajas hasn’t logged a hit vs Halladay.” Barajas is an awful hitter and Halladay is a brilliant pitcher, wtf do you think is going to happen. His career 0-9 against Halladay is similar to his career 0-12 vs Brian Lawrence…oh, haven’t heard of him? I did mention that Barajas sucks. Seriously, if you have him you are either in a deep NL-Only league or the deepest Mixed league ever. [Barajas didn’t play because Mass neglected to research Pelfrey pitching only to Henry Blanco, who went 1-3]

“Adrian Gonzalez will be pitched around and hasn’t homered in a while.” You play Adrian regardless and accept the walks as the OBP boost your league should be incorporating. [1-4, no BB, with the sole SD RBI]

“Josh Hamilton is 9-23 over past 5 games, but is .130 vs King Felix.” Congrats for our first matchup with decent stat history. 3 hits in 23 AB, but toss in 7 BB and you see obvious concerns from Felix’s standpoint. Hamilton is a good hitter and is hot so you ride him. [1-3 vs Felix with a HR]

“Brian McCann is 2-12 in past three, and hitless vs Wandy.” Unless you have one of the two catchers better than McCann you are going to be starting him. [McCann got rested for the ‘day game following night game’ issue]

“Alex Gordon is bad.” We know, nobody trusts him right now, nor should they trust Mass. [Didn’t start because he’s been horrible, scored a run]

Seeing as I knew the results for these games as I typed the majority of the previous part it could be argued that I was swayed. So let’s see how I fare with the future…on to May 2nd!

Pitchers on May 2nd:
“You have to like Chris Carpenter and his 8-3, 2.17 ERA vs Reds.” You can pretty much like Carpenter in any matchup.

“Hiroki Kuroda has a 2.74 career ERA vs Pirates.” 4 starts over 3 years, but the Pirates have been with the Nats as the worst team of the past 5 years.

“Doug Fister is good bet vs Texas who hit .220 on road.” Fister has been really good, but he is a low K guy, so that’s a lot of balls in play…which works for baseballs best defense. Texas at some point will break out of that funk and Fister has to continue working with great command. His starts have been Oak, Oak, Bal, CWS so Texas is the strongest offense on paper he’ll face. I’d start him, but be a little nervous about it.

“Johan Santana is 4-1, 2.90 ERA vs Phils.” 9 starts is a decent number to work with, but why would you worry about a top 5 pitcher?

“Jered Weaver could be bad vs Detroit who has him at a 6.34 ERA.” Don’t mention that he face them already in 2010 to the tune of 2 R over 7 IP. At some point he may have a bad start, but wait until he faces the AL East to worry.

“C.J. Wilson is 5-2 vs the Mariners.” This is just awesome. Before this season Wilson pitched 5 seasons mainly in relief with 6 starts in 2005. One of those was vs Seattle, but was a no decision. So in 37 other appearances he has gone 5-2 with a 5.77 lifetime ERA. This is the dumbest baseball oriented reason to use Wilson. He has pitched well this season and faced good teams and the Mariners aren’t built on offense so you start him (run on, sentence, run).

“Phil Hughes has 1.64 ERA and 9.0K/9IP vs White Sox.” He has 6 appearances including 2 starts for a total of 11 IP, which seems a little odd. However, he has yet to allow more than 2 R coupled with a little walk issue. He’s fine, but once again, referencing relief numbers is useless.

“Josh Johnson is 5-0 vs Nats.” Who isn’t these days?

“Jonathan Sanchez has struggled vs Rox with career 6.85 ERA, but solid so far in 2010.” Those previous years Sanchez wasn’t all that great despite flashes of brilliance. He has strung along 4 good to great starts including the most recent one run Phillies outing. See previous mention of Rockies’ issues.

“Francisco Liriano’s quick rematch vs Indians coupled with Twins recent weak bats has him ranked low.” I don’t know what that gibberish about a ‘quick rematch’ is, but if you’re worried about Liriano then you really should relax more.

“Zack Greinke is 0-3 vs Rays.” He’s a good pitcher, they’re a good team. If you have Greinke you play him…possibly even when he’s on the DL.

“Josh Beckett is 6-2 3.70 ERA vs Baltimore while Kevin Millwood has a 3.84 ERA vs BoSox.” Worry about Beckett, but he is usually a good pitcher so if he doesn’t get back on track soon then his pitches are getting tipped or he has mechanics/injury issues. Millwood has a bizarre career. I’d go with Beckett over Millwood, but the way they’re pitching it could go wacko.

“Jhoulys Chacin has a 2.43 career starting ERA in minors.” And he faces San Fran! It’s a risky play with an unknown, but for a spot start you could do a lot worse this week.

“Ben Sheets is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA vs Toronto.” Sheets spent all of his previous career in the NL…so those two wins are from two starts. He’s been off and on so far, but way off in his last start (vs TB). He could bounce back against the Blue Jays, but don’t base it on an ’05 and ’08 start and keep in mind that he has allowed too many baserunners in each outing.

“Edwin Jackson has a 2.57 ERA facing the Cubs.” This is a real winner. One start. Interleague play. He won’t be previous start bad, but chances are he won’t be good.

“Justin Verlander has been bad vs Angels as has Mark Buehrle vs the Yanks.” I can understand sitting a slumping pitcher vs NYY, but calling for Edwin Jackson over Verlander is ridiculous.

“Tom Gorzelanny has a 5.09 ERA vs Arizona.” That large ERA is primarily from one bad start, while he had three other good starts. If Mass was arguing for Carlos Silva he might as well do the same with Gorzelanny (but he clearly has no idea what he’s doing, so he doesn’t).

Hitters for May 2nd:
“Jorge Cantu has an .818 SLG vs Nats’ John Lannan.” Cantu is hitting ridiculously well and Lannan is pitching like anyone else on the Nats. You’re an idiot if you don’t play him or most other Nats opponents.

“Luis Castillo knows Jamie Moyer quite well batting .308 in 26 AB.” There you go, a decent number of AB to make judgements on. That being said, if you have Castillo, you are in a deep league.

“Xavier Nady is 4 for 7 with two doubles against Edwin Jackson.” This is so painful. Nady is below the Mendoza line in 2010 and should be an FA in all formats unless you hate yourself.

“Blake DeWitt is 3-3 vs Jeff Karstens.” PLEASE STOP! These are meaningless. As a career .256 hitter DeWitt is more likely to have an 0-fer than perfection and there are tons of guys he’s 0-3 against. If you’re adding DeWitt, then someone already has Luis Castillo.

“Jay Bruce has been hot, but has .200 BA vs Carpenter.” Oh wow, this low average guy has an even lower average vs a good pitcher. It’s only 10 AB though, but if you have a decent option try that.

“A.J. Pierzynski is bad.” Thank you.

“Carl Crawford is good, but hits .211 vs Greinke.” 4 for 19 isn’t great, but more often than not Crawford accomplishes something beneficial in a game and you don’t draft first rounders to bench them during good play.

“Julio Borbon has been playing well of late, but earlier this season he was 1-9 against Seattle.” He was also 0-12 against Toronto, 2-8 vs Cleveland, and 0-7 vs NYY. He was really bad then. What other useless info do we need?

“Casey Kotchman is 0-6 against C.J. Wilson…lifetime.” EVERYBODY PANIC! This is getting boring.

“Clint Barmes is playing so poorly that Melvin Mora gets switched in to play for him.” What does this have to do with the pitcher matchup? Mass is just filling up space now.

Oh, good, he finished. All I ask is that the put some effort into their paid job and give us info we can’t normally find or eyeball based on the names of the pitcher and hitter. In all seriousness, if you drafted your own team, then you probably can make better judgement calls than AJ Mass. Maybe he had a bad week (I’ll say, just read that column again…no, don’t!).

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How To Lose A Fanbase In 10 Days

…and, no, I haven’t seen that movie.

So, once again the Mets are making a myriad of poorly thought out decisions. The maddening fact is that comparing several of them displays a shocking amount of contradiction.

Kansas. City. Dropped. Him.

Here is the Mets opening day lineup and batting order (taking into account injuries to Beltran, Reyes, and Murphy):
1. Alex Cora SS uh-oh
2. Luis Castillo 2B
3. David Wright 3B
4. Mike Jacobs 1B WTF
5. Jason Bay LF
6. Gary Matthews Jr. CF SERIOUSLY?
7. Jeff Francoeur RF
8. Rob Barajas C
9. Johan Santana P

In terms of power and hitting ability, Bay is the best player the Mets have, so clearly he should hit fifth behind Mike Jacobs. Then you have GMJjr at CF who is no longer anywhere near the player he was that one season. The Mets have a better option in terms of offense and defense in Angel Pagan, but GMJjr had the better spring training (and that means everything). Pagan could be slotted into the lead-off spot where he saw some time in the past (.316 .358 .508 in ’09) and, despite not being the best player for the job, he can still produce effectively. Oh, and Cora went .207 .310 .253 batting 1st in ’09.
Mike Jacobs was so bad in 2009 that he was dropped by the Kansas City Royals. That alone should be proof of his ineffectiveness. Jacobs broke out in 2005 with a stellar 30 game run putting up a line of .310 .375 .710 and 11 HR. Since then his OBP has dropped each year to .297 and his K totals have risen to 132. In 2008 he crushed 32 HR and SLG .514, yet also hit .228 and OBPed .299. And KC dropped him because he sucked so much.
But Jacobs has MLB experience, which apparently counts for a lot in the Mets’ world. Meanwhile the Mets have Fernando Tatis who also has MLB exp. and who they apparently want to platoon with Jacobs (Jacobs vs RHP, Tatis vs LHP). Jacobs vs RHP = .263 .325 .505 (vs LHP .221 .269 .374). Tatis vs RHP = .264 .343 .439 (vs LHP .272 .351 .457). So all that Jacobs offers over Tatis is more power against righties and an agonizing lack of defense.
In 574 games in the minors Jacobs put up a decent line of .287 .344 .471 and very little of that occurred at AAA (27 games). The Mets have two 1B candidates in the minors who also put up incredible springs before the Mets tired of this and gave the rest of the ABs to Jacobs so that he could convince them he wasn’t worth the agony (he sucked, but the Mets were able to look past that, so contradictory point #1). Ike Davis got off to a slow start in 2008 before blossoming in 2009 and has a career of .284 .363 .458 in 172 games. He hasn’t played above AA and therefore should enjoy a 2010 in AAA, which the Mets rightfully decided. Chris Carter has spent far too long in the minors and while he has the versatility to play OF and 1B he also lacks a little defensively, though not as much as Jacobs. In 726 minor league games he has gone .306 .380 .510. He hasn’t failed to produce at any level and while one could expect a reasonable drop-off in those numbers in the majors it would still be a damn sight better than that fuckwit Jacobs.
Your new lineup and batting order that you will never see with Manuel dicking around: Angel Pagan CF, Luis Castillo 2B, David Wright 3B, Jason Bay LF, Jeff Francoeur RF, Chris Carter 1B, Alex Cora SS, Rod Barajas C, Johan Santana P.

The Mets have also produced massive amounts of fail with respect to their pitching decisions.
They are essentially entering the season with 7 starters in their ranks. Johan, Mike Pelfrey, John Maine, Oliver Perez, and Jon Niese will be the rotation while Fernando Nieve and Hisanori Takahashi will twiddle about in the bullpen. Joining them will be Pedro Feliciano, Ryota Igarashi, Francisco Rodriguez, Sean Green, and Jenrry Mejia.
Kiko Calero and Nelson Figueroa were both sent to AAA, with Figueroa being exposed and most likely taken through waivers. This equates to massive stupidity. The Mets pitchers in general had horrible springs with Mejia being the exception. Figueroa also had a great spring with one horrendous start marring his numbers.
Mejia is like Ike Davis in that he has two years of minors experience and has never appeared above AA…and so we reach contradictory point #2, because despite needing time in the minors he won’t be there.
Mejia is a starter, at least in the minors that was how he was being developed. He has a good fastball, but needs to develop his secondary pitches to the major league level. Stunting development through needless bullpen use is a good way to destroy a promising career. Sometimes it works, but in the case of Johan Santana he had 3 years in the minors and the couple years of relief in the majors probably lengthened the time required to develop those extra pitches.
It’s been argued that Mejia’s promotion is an attempt by Omar Minaya and Jerry Manuel to save the careers in a “win now” mentality. If that’s the case, why do we have Jacobs and Matthews? And there is contradictory point #3.
Sean Green was bad in 2009 and he was bad in spring training. He can be optioned to the minors. Calero was signed to a minor league contract, but he has a proven record of MLB success. Niese and Nieve both have options. Figueroa is dependable, has no options, and on many days will be a better pitcher than portions of the Mets rotation (almost anyone is better than Perez most of the time).
It pains me to say this, but I may have to hope the Mets tank the beginning of the season in order to bring about an end to the Minaya/Manuel regime. 2011 anyone?

Familiar Sportswriting Faces

Appearing later in this post, Youk and the new baseball cap.

We’ve ridiculed Dan Shaughnessy for his inability to apply logical qualifications for Hall of Fame entry and we’ve torn into Jerry Thornton because his attempts at humor are weak and clichéd. And now we have the opportunity to stew the two together.

Jerry Thornton issued some sort of an apology as he answered angry emails and then jammed his foot in his mouth, while Dan Shaughnessy released a fluff piece on how he thought that the Red Sox wouldn’t be able to resign Josh Beckett (one of those articles where you come away having learned nothing). The common theme here is their focus on the BoSox…and how both these guys are incredibly wrong in almost everything they spew forth.

First up: DanShaughn and his flimsy Josh Beckett has one year left.
The R-Sox are really strong through their starting rotation and past if need be. So yeah, if Beckett leaves it isn’t a huge loss, since Lackey or Lester could be seen as superior. Heck, Shaughnessy even mentions that other SI writers think Beckett will get an extension in the next two weeks (from the slightly more credible Jon Heyman).
Sticking point #1: Theo Epstein was off in his gorilla costume when the trade was struck (that worked out quite well for both teams) where Beckett and Mike Lowell (and Guillermo Mota) came over, while Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez (and Jesus Delgado and an invisible rabbit…Harvey…Garcia) moved to Florida. This helped get Boston their second World Series in three years. You can argue that having Hanley and some other moves would have achieved the same result, but we’ll never know (also, Beckett was instrumental in that regular and post-season run). Dan’s point is that ol’ Theo may have no attachment to Beckett, but he did have a soft spot for Hanley…so speculation.
Sticking point #2: Beckett has had one good season for the Red Sox. This coincided with their being the best team in baseball (in the USA). From 2006-2009 Beckett has posted WARs of 2.1, 6.5, 5.0, and 5.3. So, one kind of bad season in that light (of course, if Shaughnessy poo-poos concrete methods of HOF judgement then he probably doesn’t touch WAR with a ten-foot pokey thing). Based on applying dollar values to WAR, Beckett has exceeded his actual salary for four years running. Based on projections for 2010, Beckett will do that again this season. Yes, projections are speculation, but they are grounded in a statistical system rather than out-of-the-ass-pulling-of-numbers.
Sticking point #3: John Lackey in, Jason Bay out. Boston has had a tendency to be very cautious with age 30-plus players and Bay is a signal to that, while Lackey is an anomaly with his 5 year contract for a 31 yr old. Apparently Becket has spent considerable time on the DL…despite starting 33, 30, 27, and 32 games over the past four years. Danno has some strange memories of how things have progressed.
Sticking point #4: Money! Matsuzaka is apparently a waste of money (although from a marketing standpoint he is a positive boon) and Lackey, who is no Beckett (didn’t Dan just say that Beckett sucked?), is also expensive. Sabathia and Burnett got big contracts also and Beckett will want comparable pay. According to Cot’s Baseball Contracts the Red Sox will have a payroll of ~$165mill in 2010, which is an all time high for them (previously $143 in ’07, $133 in ’08, and $122 in ’09). Ortiz, Lowell, Varitek, and Victor Martinez are free agents after this season, and with Beckett’s contract also coming off, that is a total of $48.3 off the books. Papelbon will enter his final year of arbitration and I can imagine the BoSox trading him (or he’ll get $10mill and then be gone). Ortiz does have a club option, but there is no buyout, while Adrian Beltre and Bill Hall have $1mill and 500K buyouts respectively. You can expect Hall to be bought out, while Beltre has a player option for $5mill that becomes $10 with 640 PAs. I’m not sold on the BoSox taking Ortiz’s option, which was why I included him on the savings, but they could run the decline and re-sign route. So Lowell is gone for sure and Varitek is another good bet to leave. Meanwhile Beckett and Martinez will (should) be aggressively pursued for extensions. Of course with Mauer’s new deal (drastically different from FDR’s) Martinez will be all about compensation. Between the two of them $28-36mill per year is decent range to expect (the low end being Beckett giving a discount). Taking that into consideration, Boston can return to 2011 with a slightly higher payroll than 2010 and then J.D. Drew leaves! Seeing this, one can understand why Bay was allowed to leave and why you can expect Boston to remain above $150mill for the foreseeable future (if they remain in contention and don’t go all Florida Marlins on us).

Next up: JerThorn is fueled by hate mail.
Thornton summarizes his premise for his article as the following:

“Advanced baseball stats are becoming more and more prevalent. It seems like every offseason move the Sox made was based on them. Guys who believe in sabermetrics take themselves really seriously. Let’s make fun of them.”

Ok, so that failed miserably. Two things helped that out. The article wasn’t all that funny, relying on cheap gags and stereotypes, and we statheads do kind of take ourselves a little too seriously (numbers are all we have!). For the most part Thornton is quite amiable and easy-going in receiving his bashing…but there are still some kinks in there.
For one thing he is genuinely concerned that the Red Sox rely too much on advanced metrics. Then, in response to a Moneyball reference on Youkilis he issues forth the following:

Whatever Billy Beane saw in Youk is secondary to the fact that the reason he’s a great player is his production. His power numbers, his batting average, his RBIs and his OBP. All those things that advanced stats have sought to diminish. If anything, Youkilis is exactly the kind of guy that old school scouting systems would have loved.

OMGWTFBBQ! You have missed the point entirely. The only thing that advanced stats diminish is BA, because it is a very misleading stat. Meanwhile power, RBIs, and OBP (how did that get in there) are all taken into heavy consideration with such metrics. No one is diminishing the value of scouting by using statistics. Scouting is key for the array of talent pools within the high school and college baseball system. The main purpose of advanced statistics in the context of Moneyball was to exploit market inefficiencies, which was why Beane coveted Youkilis and let him fall in the draft under the assumption that most clubs didn’t have the same insight as he did (and then got one-upped by Boston). After Youkilis broke into the team, the advanced stats gave Boston their jump off point for contract negotiations.
In 2008 Youkilis hit .312 and Cristian Guzman topped him with .316…so clearly Guzman wasn’t as good as his BA would make you think. In 2008 Carlos Beltran hit 27 HR and .284 while Ryan Braun hit 37 HR at .285. Beltran was the better player. Guzman and Braun are pretty bad fielders while Beltran and Youkilis are among the best at their respective positions (Youkilis excels at 3rd and 1st). Defensive metrics account for an new frontier in the baseball world, since going by Errors and Fielding Percentage happens to be a shoddy method of evaluation (lies, I tell you). Franklin Gutierrez is enjoying the benefits, as are the Mariners pitchers (did you seriously think that Jarrod Washburn was that good?). In their time together on Boston, David Ortiz would regularly outperform Manny Ramirez in terms of WAR even though they would both put up great offensive numbers. Why? Papi was a DH and had no impact on the defensive front while Manny liked to play in the grass as fly balls dropped all around him. Manny was traded and Papi stayed.
Anyway, it seems incredibly idiotic to go by one frame of valuation of players rather than apply a couple or more. Scouting is important, it gives you ins on a player’s swing, glove, arm, hairstyle, etc. Statistical analysis isn’t more important, but a way to avoid mistakes, evaluate for contract negotiations/offers and trades, and exploit those pesky market inefficiencies. Heck, throw a psychiatrist in there and avoid all the Lastings Milledges and Elijah Dukes…or use one to soften their edges. The Pittsburgh Pirates recently employed a mental conditioning expert ( an article by Yahoo! Sports’ Steve Henson, we hit a trifecta) for the US military to fiddle with their burgeoning youngster system. Thinking outside the proverbial box is what gets you an advantage (usually; some NFL teams like to employ aspiring criminals and that doesn’t always work). Trying something new in an effort to perfect your team and system while keeping costs at an acceptable point will put you ahead (operations research anyone?).
Next comes more brain pain:

There are lies, there are damned lies and there are statistics. Then there are the statistics that prove that J.D. Drew is a more productive hitter than Jason Bay.

Not sure where you find those stats. Bay is the superior batter even if Drew is slightly more patient at the plate (although they’re both great OBPers), but while Bay is awful running around the Green Monster, Drew is actually really good…and that is why WAR values Drew over Bay.

…it’s a gross exaggeration to say claim sabermetrics won the Sox two championships. It may have helped. But the major contributions to those two titles came from decidedly old school, non-sabermetric players. Sluggers like Manny Ramirez. High batting average guys like Bill Meuller. Run producers like Kevin Millar. Many of whom played mediocre defense, by the way.

When you have Curt Schilling and Pedro Martinez heading your rotation, defense is one of your lesser worries. Sabermetrics likes OBP and seven of the main 2004 starting fielders OBPed .365 or higher. The Red Sox were able to use Millar and Mueller for cheap…because they were exploiting market inefficiencies. Meanwhile they used a combo of Pokey Reese, Nomar, and Orlando Cabrera at shortstop to provide great defense. They moved Nomar to get Cabrera who could provide defense and offense (Reese kinda sucked a bunch at the plate). Derek Lowe was another pitcher in the rotation and he felt the mediocre (bad) defense as his ERA was 5.42, while his FIP tells another story at 4.26 and a BABIP at .338…that defense was really bad around him. Yet Lowe still won 14 games because the Red Sox ran with run production.

Didn’t the Stat Geeks convince Theo that a closer was a waste of money, which led to the Closer-by-Committee fiasco? And it was only when they sunk huge money into the retro Keith Foulke and developed a throwback power closer in Jonathan Papelbon that they were able to win it all.

The 2003 Red Sox bullpen was devoid of a great reliever and closers generally want an assload of cash for limited use. The closer is your best relief pitcher…and when teams have a few really good RPs they will do even better, because the more innings you can eat up the better. The closer by committee thing only works if you have capable RPs and in 2003 Byung-Hyun Kim was in the process of falling apart even if he was the best RP the BoSox had. If you look at the 2003 ALCS you’ll find that starters accounted for all 4 losses against the Yanks (although Sauerbeck relieved Lowe in Game 2 to give up a double), so lack of a closer doesn’t really hold sway at the point where the Red Sox season ended. There is a new move in the sabermetrics field in that your best RP (so, closer) pitches at the most important part of the game, which is the part where you preserve your lead no matter what inning. If you are in the seventh and the bases are loaded with one out and you are leading by 2 then you bring in the closer and keep your team in the game instead of blowing the lead and the chance to toss him in in the 9th. Take Philly, where Brad Lidge was an utter crapbomb in ’09, but on the other hand you have Ryan Madson, who was the Phillies’ best RP. Madson was brought in during those important moments and kept the team from blowing their lead so that Lidge could come in later and come close to blowing it (or blow it).

Furthermore, one of the tenets of sabermetrics is that “clutch” doesn’t exist. And yet the Sox have held a special ceremony just to honor David Ortiz as the best clutch hitter in Sox history. And there’s not a formula in existence that can convince me they’re wrong about that.

Some players are better at coping with high intensity moments than others, but if you have guys who treat every plate appearance in the same manner then there is no such thing as clutch. Normal, everyday fans like clutchness and the memories they create and David Ortiz had a knack for hitting homers at necessary moments. Aaron Boone once hit an important homer…and he also was a very bad player for the Yankees in 2003 where he went .250BA .302OBP .418SLG 6HR in 54 regular season games and was even worse in the post season at .170BA .196OBP .302SLG 2HR in 17 games. But one of those HR was really really important, so, you know, clutch.
Thornton finishes by ripping on Ron Borges and Dan Shaughnessy…so he at least has something right. Good Show.

I promise to write something non-sportswriter-attack related, but sometimes there is an influx of misinformation.

Another Failure In Journalistic Integrity

This goes beyond the simple act of freely casting aspersions about. It also manages to deal with the difference in reaction to a measured, considerate, and lightly philosophical read from a blogger to that of a journalist who bandies about steroid accusations while even contradicting himself.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk brings these issues up in his reaction to Yahoo! Sports’ Steve Henson and his attack on Nomar Garciaparra. Recently retired, Nomar Garciaparra.

So we learn that the world of journalism is hypocritical. In summary, Calcaterra bemoans the fact that Henson gets off being called a journalist while bloggers get reamed by the mainstream media…bringing us the case of Jerrod Morris.

Raul Ibanez got off to a ridiculously hot start in 2009. Morris, a blogger, had Ibanez in his fantasy league and a leaguemate called Ibanez out citing HR per AB and so on as a case for steroid use. Morris decided to investigate before making his counter argument and this is what he came up with for his blog post.

So let’s do a quick rundown of the differences between these two articles:

Henson: Garciaparra mysteriously broke down into injury problems following his 29th year of existence. Speculation abound without much proof or investigation. Look at this picture! Mention of a genetic condition that affects muscular contractions (which would explain repeated injuries) and then completely disregard it for further steroid speculation.

Morris: Mounting a defense against a fantasy baseball colleague over Ibanez’s power surge (19 HR in first 55 games of ’09 vs 23 in 162 in ’08). Use statistics (HR/AB, lineup, career splits) and ballpark dimensions (CBP-hitter’s park vs Safeco-pitcher’s park) and pitcher match-ups (punishing ppor Nat and Padre pitchers) to try to account for uptick. Even mentions that Ibanez could slow down and projects him to finish with 30-35 HR (ding-ding! 34 HR in ’09). Points made: Ibanez is great fantasy pick (and sell-high candidate), 55 games is still a small sample size, we are in a different era of baseball and the change of league and home park doesn’t fully account for power surge of a 37 year old. Shane Monahan used steroids as a Mariner and Ibanez denied using them, but all players deny use even if they’ve used them.

Which one seems like more of a credible journalist?

My beef isn’t so much that Henson is raising the possibilty of Garciaparra using steroids(hey, why not, with his retirement he just became newsworthy again…ah, easy way out for a story), but the fact that he plows into it headfirst claiming that Nomar has this big secret. The “proof” he gives is flimsy and insubstantial…the most important thing mentioned is something which gives light to Nomar’s injury troubles and detracts from his insane attack. It’s a pathetic attempt at an article.

What happened next for Jerrod Morris is something bordering along the lines of lunacy. Journalists from all outlets and hosts of ESPN shows glazed over it and never seemed to get it’s point (or origin). Unfortunately this led to Morris getting severely reamed by the MSM and when he appeared on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” he was presented in a poor light (pale, no makeup, no suit) and since he doesn’t appear TV was torn to shreds by these drooling, illiterate dickheads.

John Gonzalez of the Philly Inquirer tore into Morris without getting the gist of the article (you can search for it on philly.com “A Cheap Shot At Ibanez) as does Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times. Baker hops up on his high horse to point out the differences between journalism and blogging (there’s a difference? no way!) and spends a good time stroking his ego instead of getting to the point (real journalists are narcissists). Another difference between journalists and bloggers? Bloggers don’t get to go to baseball games for free, much less meet the players for free. So we can’t really “look the players in the eye.”

Of course when one of their own releases a weaker version of the same thing they probably assume it’s a work of art in the realm of their craft.

Luckily there were some guys defending Morris against this excessive and unwarranted backlash. Progressive thinkers/writers such as Joe Posnanski and Rob Neyer. Posnanski brings to light Ibanez’s tendency to go on hot streaks in his SI article and it makes an excellent case for Ibanez just being like he is every other season. Neyer defends Morris even further and says that bloggers can be maniacal at times (even if Morris wasn’t, but it’s true, WAHAHAHA!) Both bring up Ibanez defending himself, which is good for him, he should, but he brings up that annoying “mother’s basement” stereotype…so Raul Ibanez, maybe you were caught up being pissed, but that was still a dick move. Even more important: We are in a different era were everyone is a suspect and regardless of innocence will refute allegations until scientifically proven true (and even then, continue). So how can we believe that we’re always told the truth?

Even further: Baseball players are overpaid. They make millions for a game and we have a right to be skeptical because they are grown men and can deal with it and their Player’s Association had held up testing for a long time because so many of them were cheating and now so many of them are lying.

If Steve Henson had managed to touch on any of these points I would have respected his article more, but since he appears to have thrown spaghetti at a wall and called it work I have absolutely no qualm about calling him unprofessional, lazy, and an utter douche (maniacal blogging!).

Expect more of your professionals. Request that journalists display the “journalistic integrity” they always harp on about especially in relation to blogging. We bloggers have integrity, but we don’ always have to display it because we’re doing this for fun and usually just for our friends…AND FOR FREE. Suck it up and write something decent to read.

This Apparently Still Passes For Journalism

Jerry Thornton is a “columnist” for WEEI, a New England sports radio network. So he writes an online column, which reads more like an inane op-ed piece from a delusional wacko, for a radio station. Good gig.

This is his most recent offering that WEEI pays him (with money) to write: The Geeks Will Inherit The Earth

There already has been a response at TedQuarters by Ted Berg, a senior editorial producer for SNY.tv where he also writes a column…so a step up from a column for a radio station…right? Have you even seen my beautiful head of hair, Jerry Thornton of WEEI.com? Also, check out that ridiculous picture Berg’s article links to at the end.

Anyway, as all sports bloggers aspire to recreate the success of FireJoeMorgan (since there is no other way to be successful as a sports blog) I will run through through the litany of baseless assertions that Thornton makes.

He begins rather tamely, building excitement as he rounds out the intro with the claim that the Red Sox will be winning the World Series. But that comes with a horror story:

I’m afraid that if … when … the Sox win it all this year, it will mean total victory has been achieved by that odd, creepy little subculture that lives among us: the Stat Geeks.

Later he will mention Theo Epstein being the poster boy for the stat geeks. Epstein is a “stat geek” and he apparently had nothing to do with 2004 and 2007. I am a stat geek. I’m not odd and creepy…well, not creepy anyway.

They’re like the Communist Party plotting to take over Hollywood in the 1950s before Ronald Reagan got wise to them and kicked their pinko butts all the way back to Moscow and Harvard Square. Only, instead of trying to write screenplays full of anti-capitalists rants, the Stat Geeks have succeeded in making otherwise normal, decent, God-fearin’ Americans start talking about VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) ratings and UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) numbers like they really believe in this nonsense.

When did Sarah Palin get a column on WEEI?
But seriously, this is only the beginning of Thornton’s ability to create a piece where he provides no story, no plot, no facts, no evidence…nothing really, by just stringing together segments of a hate speech against “stat geeks” whose only crime is that they have found one more (in depth) way to love the game of baseball.

And call me overly paranoid, but part of me is afraid Theo Epstein is their prize project. The one they’ve brainwashed into bringing their message of Sabremetric supremacy to the world. The Staturian Candidate.

How is being incredibly successful at your job, finding a way to succeed when one team has an unfair payroll advantage, wearing a Gorilla costume, rejuvenating the faith that a fanbase has in their team…how is all that “brainwashing”? It’s a ridiculous theory, because Thornton has no other explanation for the fact that he should actually hate Epstein, a man who operates under stats geekitude and employs like minded individuals (yeah, we’ll get to Bill James in a bit).

Look at the Red Sox roster as it’s currently constituted: While there’s still a core of blue chip, proven, battle-tested baseball lifers who’d be winners in any era … the Pedroias, Becketts, Lesters, Papelbons and Youkili … it seems like this offseason, the rest of the roster was supplanted with Stat Geek favorites.

Ok, the Red Sox have an unfair advantage now…they apparently have at least two Pedroias, Becketts..etc. Youkilis was called The Greek God of Walks. He was coveted by Billy Beane. HE IS A STAT GEEK FAVORITE. Players that were drafted by Epstein and his brain trust are in this group. Thornton is essentially blind…or he just halfheartedly wrote this in 10 minutes without much thought.

Agents who were trained in a basement at the Baseball Prospectus HQ to infiltrate the Sox and destroy them from within.

Ah, I see, people who can actively and concretely help in creating a great baseball team are actually “agents” who want to destroy it…because that’s good for business. Most teams employ stat-minded people in some shape or form. Some teams don’t do it enough (METS!) so try following them and see how you like not winning two WS and failing to consistently reach the post-season.

And suddenly, a legit All-Star like Jason Bay is body-snatched away and replaced with Mike Cameron with his 70 RBI but his to-die-for Rtzhm (total fielding runs above average at home) numbers. I don’t know Cameron and maybe he’ll be a great addition to the club.

Jason Bay is a bad defensive OF. He can be a demon at bat, but he was too costly for the risk factor the Sox thought they would be dealing with. Mike Cameron, who costs less than half of Jason Bay, can produce at least half of Bay’s production, while being a huge upgrade defensively. In fact, by him taking over CF and moving Jacoby Ellsbury to LF the Sox are defensively upgraded in two positions.

But I also won’t be surprised to find out he talks in a robot voice and repeats “I am Mike. I play center field. Would you care to discuss my lgRF9 (league range factor for 9 innings) numbers?” over and over again all year.

I didn’t realize that Thornton was so up on robotics (that haven’t been developed yet).

If he says pitching and defense are the keys to victory, who am I to argue? Even if the defense is judged on obscure, impossible-to-understand and largely subjective stats that some pale virgin made up in his mom’s basement, I’ll trust Epstein.

Michael Lichtman is the creator of the previously mentioned UZR, but the Red Sox have already stated that they use their own defensive metrics to judge players. I’m guessing Bill James has a lot of say in there. I am fairly sure that neither of these guys live in their mom’s basement and from this interview with The Hardball Times we learn that he is married and has three offspring…so there goes the virgin thing. James is a little pale, but he is a white guy who lives in New England, what do you expect?

Thornton then needlessly reiterates his paranoia about nerds and talks about them taking over baseball. People are always going to look for ways to streamline their operation so that they can achieve more for less. Every single play has at least one number attached to it. The game takes place within a confined space that can be turned into a grid. It’s a simple step to employ numbers-minded professionals to find a capable player for cheaper than some expensive guy everyone thinks you should have.
Operations Research is a field of mathematics that involves finding the most effective way(s) to reach the solution you want with maximum profit or minimum loss. Businesses, governments, the military use this field because it makes sense to do so. If you can save money and increase your capabilities at the same time why the hell wouldn’t you. Baseball is a business and teams have to find new ways to get ahead of other teams. For a while the Yankees were just throwing money at players and they were winning, but they weren’t as successful as they should have been. Now they have changed their ways and while still being the largest payroll by a large percentage they aren’t overpaying players. The Tampa Bay Rays have created a system that builds their team from within and the Red Sox have managed to build a team stronger than that of the Yankees a couple times and remain competitive all the time. I don’t know how Thornton would like to create a team, but it apparently involves throwing wads of money at players who can hit or who have those “intangibles” and needless to say he would make a horrible GM.

At this point you might be saying “Gee, Jer. How do you know so much about Stat Geeks anyway?” Glad you asked because the answer will surprise you. Because I, for a very brief time in my life, was one. Yes, it’s true. Looks like mine and brains, too? As implausible as it sounds, I Was A Teenage Stats Geek. I read the backs of guys’ baseball cards. I studied the day’s box scores. I committed to memory the tops of the all time career statistical rankings in dozens of categories.

When I was a kid the backs of my baseball cards had the simplest of stats AB, H, 2B, 3B, HR, SB, AVG; W, L, IP, SV, K, BB, ERA. I didn’t realize that enshrines you into the world of stats geekery. Here is the truth, the box score will give someone a rudimentary explanation of how the game went for someone who wasn’t able to watch it. The new stats that have been created give you a better valuation of a player, because someone who hits .280 for a season with 20 HR isn’t nearly as valuable because he OBPs .305 and it shows with his 50 runs. People decried OBP when it first made the steps into baseball journalism and guess what, it was proven to be useful and it now has it’s place next to AVG on the backs of all those baseball cards. It’s a process that is involved with every change that takes place. People want to keep their traditional values and shy away from the change would remove them from their comfort zone. It happens with everything in the world and you know what…there are studies pointing to the ability to try something new and go the non-traditional route is a sign of intelligence and possibly higher evolution.

But then, I made an amazing discovery. Something that the Stat Geek population doesn’t know and never will. Women.

What the hell is a women?

Suddenly Butch Hobson’s RBI total didn’t mean quite as much. Jim Rice’s total bases faded from my mind. And for me that mean putting away the Baseball Encyclopedia, getting outside and living an actual life. It also led to other discoveries like jobs, cars, activities, beer and sunlight.

I have no life, I have never had a job, I don’t know a thing about cars, activities?, never had a beer, and sunlight is the devil.
None of those things is true.
Also…he discovered activities? Researching stats is an activity. Walking to the door is an activity. Pooping is an activity. ANYTHING IS AN ACTIVITY.

But not everyone has evolved the same way.

Remember that link from NatGeo? Thornton is non-evolved.

There is a growing subculture of stats-crunching troglodytes among us, and I for one am frightened that these mouth-breathing, greased[sic] stained Gollums might actually be influencing something vital to our national interest.

Troglodytes and Gollums? Influencing…I hate to break it to you, Thornton, but the game has already been influenced.

I mean, consider Bill James, who is like a god to these Sabremetric trolls. He’s made an industry out of making up silly, useless formulae to prove things like Alex Gonzalez should be bussing tables in the Fort Myers Waffle House, and yet Theo has given him a position of power and influence in his inner circle. It’s the equivalent of my old Missle Command skills getting me a job with NORAD or my Bill Belichick building a gameplan around my Coleco electric football offense.

Your hyperbole is useless on me. The equivalent of someone using mathematics to not only make money, but also get a job with your Red Sox, is using video game skills for a profession? What we have here is a false analogy.

So as a public service to all like-minded fans, concerned Red Sox citizens worried about the direction the Nation is headed, I’d like to put my ex-Stat Geek skills to us and offer my own formula for judging all statisticians. Let’s call it the NSGR/MMUSRI (Nerdy Stat Geek Ridiculous/Meaningless Made Up Statistic Rating Index).

Take a guess as to the direction this is going to go.

You take any new, obscure baseball evaluation stat and you start with the weight of the guy who invented it, times how many days he’s been wearing the same “Han Solo Shot First” T-shirt, divided by how many times he’s had sex in his life, multiplied by how often his mom cooks his meals add how many days a month he sees the sun times the percentage by which he throws like a girl.

Sigh. I hate to relate this to sexism or racism, but it has similar elements. False stereotypes, unthinking and discriminatory hate-speech. There are way too many instances of supposed journalists, columnists, talking heads, etc. making the same picture of a single, nerdy, male living in his parents’ basement with an irrational fear of sunlight. Stop it already, it lost it’s laugh factor after the first guy did it (possibly before).
Oh right, sexism: “throws like a girl.” Good one.

Then you throw them all out and go with what your eyes tell you. And stop wasting our time with this Sabremetrics foolishness.

My eyes tell me to stop reading your lame attempts at journalism. Columnism? Writing? Typing.
I understand writers wanting to come off as being funny and maybe that was the primary force driving Thornton here, but the end result is just so poor and it’s been done so many times before, there is nothing new here. So good job earning that paycheck.

Anyway, if all few of you who read this would refrain from listening to WEEI or at least send them an email condemning them for their insistence to employ Jerry Thornton, that would be greatly appreciated across the blogohedron.

Mets 2010 Depth Chart: Beyond Ridiculous

Over the off-season the Mets have managed to vaguely address several needs that were exploited in the previous season and/or opened by players leaving. Jason Bay was signed for 4 years to watch Citifield gobble up his HR opportunities and waddle around in the OF. So LF was addressed. Beyond that the Mets signed a plethora of other players (mainly catchers) to Major and Minor contracts, none of which surpassed $1.25 million for the 2010 season (although some do have incentives). Let’s check out the bizarre madhouse that is the Mets’ depth chart:

Catcher

What a GIS for 'six headed monster' yields.

Brian Schneider left to become a back-up and the enormo-faced Ramon Castro was traded during the season because the much-worse Omir Santos was deemed better (he also had that one HR off Papelbon, which is the only thing people remember). So, returnees are Omir Santos and Josh Thole (TOE-lee, but I prefer the pronunciation that sounds like ‘soul’ with a lithp…much like Chone /= Shawn). Additions are Henry Blanco, Chris Coste, Shawn Riggans, and Rod Barajas. It should be noted that none of these six catchers are currently starter worthy. There are rumors of Omir Santos being traded since there is apparently a short list of teams dumb enough to desire him (probably for not much in return, but at least we get rid of a catcher). Henry Blanco is pretty much locked in for the backup catcher role since he is capable defensively and his career OBP is higher than that of Rod Barajas, who is the favorite to win the starting job. The consensus is for Coste to mentor Thole down in AAA leaving Santos and Riggans to…? So if Santos is indeed traded then Shawn Riggans gets to enjoy limited appearances at competitive levels. And hope that the training staff sucks as much as it did last year.

First Base
Another problem spot plague by a lack of hitting prowess at a position where it is really damn easy to get a feared hitter. Daniel Murphy is almost a lock to take most of the starts here and despite a down year at the plate he has displayed a beyond average range at the bag (with some mental lapses). He just received some training with the mustachioed Keith Hernandez (MLB’s greatest defensive 1b?) and if he can do a tad better than last season’s offensive numbers he’ll be the Mets’ version of Casey Kotchman (not ideal, but better than the no improvement). Behind Murphy there appears to be another backlog of MLB back-ups. Fernando Tatis is a great bench bat and can fill in at a number of fielding positions, but could nab some starts vs certain types of pitchers (lefties). Of course some seem to think that Mike Jacobs will challenge for the position, which is a bit concerning, because besides power he offers way below average defense and even worse splits against LHPs. Then, in no particular order, there is Nick Evans, who can fill in in the OF also, but is at best a bench player; Chris Carter, the prototypical quad-A guy (power, average), also an OF fill in, but has the fielding prowess of a amputated rhino; Ike Davis, the prospect for 2011, who is still sanding down the edges to perfect his game; and finally Mike Hessman, a career minors masher, who will likely see no time in the Majors with the Mets (once again, pending injuries). Every Met fan and their mother wanted the Mets to go after Russell Branyan (who was magnetized to Cleveland for the 4th time).
An interesting thought is that if the Mets falter too much and Ike Davis breaks out, the Mets will have a variety of serviceable backups to trade to postseason hopefuls. Daniel Murphy could bring a decent return.

Second Base
Who wants Luis Castillo? This was the theme of the off-season. Unfortunately nobody was biting and once again the Mets go into a season with a less than satisfactory 2B. Castillo has steadily gotten slower both on running the bases and guarding them, but he managed to be something of a surprise at the plate (good average, great OBP, still no power). Next in line are Alex Cora and Anderson Hernandez. Cora has better power (marginally, but no starter) and Hernandez is a slightly worse version of Castillo. Alex Cintron was just signed to a minor league contract and is also pretty much useless. There are a variety of minor league utility guys and prospects that could get a sniff of action because I can almost guarantee that one or more of these guys will miss significant time due to injury (oddly, Castillo was one of the healthier Mets in 2009).
A problem with Castillo is his undesirable contract which gives him $6 million the next two years, which presented major issues with the Mets seeking Orlando Hudson. Felipe Lopez is still available (nope, he was just signed in the middle of my writing this to a deal worth less than Cora’s, but incentivized) and at this point his wage demands should have dropped quite a bit and he is an upgrade over Castillo on defense and power (plate discipline is a slight downgrade) not to mention he can take up SS, 3B, and OF. A shrewd deal to bring him in (the Mets have been strangely shrewd lately with small contracts for players seeking more) would make moving Castillo not as urgent and the Mets’ gain in depth is a win for a future trade (plenty of teams have question marks at 2B, even the Phillies who have no set backup for Utley).

Unfortunately the Mets new uniforms were rejected by MLB.

Shortstop
This is an easy one. Jose! Reyes! And his tricky hamstrings! The line of backups is the same as it is for 2B. I should point out that Alex Cora is no where near as bad as he appeared to be last year. Cora suffered from torn ligaments in one of his thumbs, but played through it before he tore ligaments in the other thumb (seriously…freaking training staff). Granted, he isn’t worth the $2 million per year the Mets like to have him for, but it isn’t the worst deal (Castillo!). If Jose remains healthy for the entire season that offers the Mets a full 2-4 WAR over anyone else the Mets currently have.

Third Base
David Wright. He has yet to miss a large chunk of a season during his career, so there is a chance that that could happen (David is slow to pick up on what the rest of the team does). Fernando Tatis actually filled in following Wright’s beaning in the head, but beyond him there are few options providing MLB experience. Russ Adams, Shane Bowman, Andy Green, and Mike Cervenak are the next names in line, but barring a renaissance in offensive abilities, are less than desirable.

Outfield
The easiest segment of the Mets to plot with Jason Bay in left, Jeff Francoeur in right, and Carlos Beltran in center. Well, a month into the season Beltran should be back. Angel Pagan should be the starter in his place and can actually do quite a good job of it as he showed last season. For some strange reason, Pagan’s appearance in the future lineup has Jerry Manuel contemplating Pagan leading off and Reyes hitting second. Chances are this isn’t the greatest idea. Gary Matthews Jr. was picked up with the Angels so desirous of removing him that they agreed to pay for a little more than 90% of his salary. Unfortunately he had only one good season that was coupled with one phenomenal catch and it translated into the worst contract in recent history. That all means that the Mets have a below average fielder and hitter and will likely give him too much opportunity to show how bad he is. Frank Catalanotto was signed to provide extra depth and can field at a variety of positions, but his best years are behind him and I really wish the Mets had tried to sign him 7 ago. Fernando Martinez should get more seasoning in AAA, but will probably see some time in the MLB before the season ends. At some point in the next couple years he should progress far enough that Bay, Francoeur, or Beltran will be seen as expendable. Nick Evans and Chris Carter can also pop up for appearances along with Jason Pridie and Val Pascucci.

Starting Rotation
Johan Santana is the ace and then it kind of drops off. John Maine and Mike Pelfrey make up the next two spots in no particular order, but they’re more like good options for back end starters on a good team. Oliver Perez can be a #2 when he is on, but that happens less and less and he is more likely to completely blow a game than keep the Mets in it. Jonathan Niese and Fernando Nieve are the favorites to claim the 5th spot and Nieve, in my mind, has the stuff and experience to start the season there. Niese can do with a little more time in AAA and he has the ability to be a very good mid-rotation pitcher. Other hopefuls for that last spot and first call-up when Ollie blows out are Hisanori Takahashi, Pat Misch, Bobby Parnell, Nelson Figueroa, Josh Fogg, and R.A. Dickey. Takahashi came over from Japan and is seen as a bullpen addition, but if he makes the rotation then that points to him succeeding during the pre-season against MLBers. Misch had some success last year, but is more likely slated for long relief. Parnell is better off in the bullpen as he was beyond awful as a starter (in the more than necessary opportunities he was given). Figueroa is another dark horse with decent stuff to get the job done and should be the next option behind Nieve and Niese. I have no idea why the Mets signed Fogg, he has been terrible ever since I can remember. Dickey is a knuckleballer who will likely be called upon if only to confuse an opposing team.

Bullpen
Francisco Rodriguez has the closer role safely taken care of, but the Mets have made a variety of signings that have given them the experience and depth to bridge the gap between starters and F-Rod-o to a more successful degree than last year. Kelvim Escobar has some shoulder issues, but if and when he returns he can be a great 8th inning guy with experience as a starter and a closer. Ryota Igarashi is also an excellent choice for late inning work and appears to be free of Escobar’s injury troubles. Pedro Feliciano is under-appreciated and is a lefty specialist who can turn the most capable of hitters (assuming they bat left) into a worse version of a Mets backup catcher. Bobby Parnell is a good bet to make the pen along with Sean Green who lowered his point of delivery and while neither of them were overly impressive they certainly aren’t the worst options. Hisanori Takahashi, Pat Misch, and Elmer Dessens will hope to gain the long reliever spot. Waiver claim Jay Marshall was a contender for a spot, but due to a pre-existing condition (injury!) the Mets are seeking to void that. Other arms are Jack Egbert, Clint Everts, Travis Blackley, Bobby Livingston, and prospect Eric Niesen.

Manager
Jerry Manuel is on thin ice for this season. There are a few guys below him who could step in. Ken Oberkfell manages the AAA Buffalo Bisons and Tim Teufel manages the AA Binghampton Mets. The most appealing in-house candidate is Wally Backman who manages the short season A Brooklyn Cyclones. Backman was in line for the Diamondbacks job in 2004, but a string of financial and legal troubles caused Arizona to push him out. With any luck he’s been able to put all that behind him and fixed all his previous troubles, but if Manuel does go the Mets will probably use one of the coaches (Howard Johnson, David Jauss) as an interim manager before hiring some outside candidate. Bob Melvin, former manager of the Diamondbacks and Mariners, is currently a scout with the Mets.
Incidentally, I just found out that Julio Franco is still with the Mets as he manages their rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League.

General Manager

A Nerd with a Francoeur fetish

Omar Minaya also happens to be on thin ice this season (big surprise). There aren’t too many impressive in-house options should (when?) Minaya be told to go, but Wayne Krivsky, former two year Reds GM, is currently a special assistant to Minaya and no doubt had some influence in the bullpen retooling. The one real up-and-comer is John Ricco, the Assistant GM, and mouth of the team when the whole Beltran knee incident occurred and Minaya was hiding in a closet somewhere. He is apparently a stats and financials guy (yet pushed for the Francoeur trade, weird) and also looks like a nerd. Ricco is the likely option as the Mets won’t want to go through firing a GM and having to eat his salary and refill the front office. There are even rumors of promoting Ricco to GM and “promoting” Minaya to a personnel or player evaluation position.

And there you have it. Muddled? Yes. Deep? More than most. Full of talent? Meh.
Their AAA affiliate, Buffalo Bisons, are going to be loaded though. So winning baseball in Buffalo! Hooray!
How does the rest of the NL East compare? Somewhat better:
The Phillies depth chart is set at each position and there should be a couple worthy candidates for the 5th starter, but you can basically see how the bullpen will pan out. Their weakest hitter is the pitcher and then Carlos Ruiz (unless you face him in the postseason where he becomes other-worldly). Depth could become an issue if they suffer too many injuries, but when has that ever happened?
The Braves are more or less set in the field, but have a few guys who could run through the OF including Baseball America’s #1 prospect, Jason Heyward. Chipper is likely to miss some time and the best bet behind him is Eric Hinske. The starters are more or less set even if Jair Jurrjens misses some time, but the real weak point could be the bullpen. Don’t get me wrong, the Wagner, Saito, Moylan back end is enviable, but the first two are in their late 30s and after those three the skill an/or experience level drops off…severely.
The Marlins have an opening for 1B that will be resolved during the pre-season, but that could mean some growing pains during the season that could hinder them (then again, it’s the Marlins, when has a rookie not succeeded). The rotation can be spotty after ace Josh Johnson, but the ace may be the one to worry about. Last season saw a massive uptick in innings pitched (almost 100 more than the season before in the minors and majors) and could point to a burn-out or injury. The bullpen isn’t completely set and that includes the closer, but there are a variety of options here that they can switch out easily and should they find the right mix it could be dangerous.
Poor Washington. It just doesn’t look good for the Nationals. They have a couple feared hitters (Zimmerman, Dunn) and a few other good ones (Morgan, Willingham, Dukes), but their catching situation is just awful (Pudge has been way past his prime for some time now) and their depth is almost non-existent. Meanwhile, they seem set to go into the season with a group of pitchers who are unable to get many strikeouts (a lot of balls in play points to hoping for good defense) and Stephen Strasburg might be asked to start the season in AAA (until they realize that he is way better than anyone they have). The bullpen has Matt Capps at closer, who I can tell you from last year’s fantasy team, was less than decent the previous year. Beyond Capps there are a few serviceable guys and there are plenty of options, but none of the upside comparable to the Marlins ‘pen.

Necessary Big Lebowski References

Jayson Werth is apparently more awesome than his over-productive 2009.

That rug really tied the room together.
“That rug really tied the room together.”